Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

ILS indications

Two pieces of important news came out about ILS at the end of last week. One is relevant to anyone involved with Library Systems, the other only to those of using Horizon.

The first was the results of Marshall Breeding’s ILS survey I must admit to not being greatly surprised by most of the overall results. Librarians are detail people so it was inevitable that no system would come out as perfect. Innovative came out of it fairly well, which backs up my impression that they rate customer support as a priority. Ex Libris position is interesting: they have the ‘Voyager’ problem where they have announced their decision to discontinue the system after the takeover of Endeavour and so they have a considerable number of customers forced into a migration they hadn’t planned for. The position of Aleph is unusual. It gets some widely divergent votes which suggests to me that it is one of those systems that reflects what you put into it, functionally rich but demanding quite a lot of technical input to get the best out of it (which not all libraries have).

Dave Pattern rightly quotes the paragraph about SirsiDynix. They suffer badly because Horizon customers feel very let-down about the switch to Symphony (similar to Voyager above). Even the Unicorn customers don’t seem to have much trust in the company. Dave highlights Scribe’s suggestion that maybe SD are happy to lose a substantial part of their customer base simply because they don’t have the level of staffing required to migrate and support them. This might be supported by the UK position: the SD UK office aren’t keen to let Horizon customers move to Horizon 7.4/ HIP 3.09 which are being offered in the US, and we’ve wondered whether this is because they simply don’t have the remaining Horizon expertise to support this. The SD argument is that they don’t want to spend staffing resource on a legacy system, but as many of us will be on that legacy system for some years we’d rather our money went on something we would use rather than a system we’re not yet committed to migrating to.  SD’s acceptable customer loss level was talked about amongst the delegates at CODI.

Ironically the top system for customer satisfaction in Breeding’s survey is Polaris, which was the topic of the other announcement I wanted to mention. This was Ouachita Parish Public Library’s announcement that they’ve decided to move to Polaris from Horizon. This is significant because it is the library run by Eileen Kontrowitz, the CODI Past President. Eileen is very highly influential in the Horizon community (not least because she has strong views and is prepared to speak out to defend them). SD didn’t bid, largely because Symphony runs on either ISAM or Oracle, neither of which was an option for Ouachita. Eileen is one of those opinion-formers the sociologists talk about, and her loss to the Horizon community will in turn be a loss to SD.

The survey shows that the ILS world isn’t a ‘happy place’ (I use that phrase deliberately) to be at the moment. There’s a lot of frustration pent up there and I’m not sure all the suppliers recognise it. Maybe some are even relying on the tendency that increasing satisfaction raises costs? A supplier who delivered the products and reliability that customers want, along with the support to back it up, could make substantial inroads into the market. But ILS are so expensive that this would be a comparatively long-term move, and ‘long-term’ isn’t a phrase which tends to interest venture capitalists.

January 15, 2008 - Posted by | Libraries


  1. As the Ex Libris Director of Product Management for Aleph and Voyager, I wanted to make an important correction to your comments above. Voyager is not being discontinued. In fact, since the acquisition of Endeavor, Ex Libris has significantly increased its investment in Voyager; is on target for a very exciting Voyager 7.0 release in just a few months; and is actively engaged with its many customers in planning for subsequent releases. I’m happy to say that we’ve received very high marks from our customers on our work for Voyager 7.0, which includes a new public interface designed in conjunction with usability experts. Far from being discontinued, the Aleph and Voyager roadmaps ensure that both products will continue to enjoy new development.

    Ex Libris will be providing detailed updates to its customers about ILS product development at the ELUNA and IGeLU conferences later this year, but I invite anyone with further questions about product planning to contact me directly at

    Comment by Kathryn Harnish | January 15, 2008

  2. My apologies to Kathryn for my misunderstanding.

    Comment by Ian | January 15, 2008

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